Wednesday, April 20, 2005

UC Berkeley - Number Two Globally

Letting Colleges Down

By Paul Trible
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; Page A19

It's likely that college presidents around the world had a dollop of surprise along with their morning coffee recently when the Times of London released a global ranking of the 200 best universities.

Predictably, this survey of 1,300 academics in 88 countries found that Harvard -- with its endowment of nearly $23 billion -- held first place. The surprise was the university that came in second. Oxford or Cambridge? No, they were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. Stanford or Yale? No, they were seventh and eighth. The second-best university in the world was a public, state-sponsored institution -- the University of California at Berkeley. Public universities in Alabama, Arizona, Texas, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia and other states ranked among the global elite 200.

There is an irony here. For decades, many unfairly considered state schools to be, as they say at Oxford, "redbrick" -- second-rate diploma mills. Now, just as U.S. public universities are finally winning the global recognition they deserve for quality, their very future is suddenly in doubt.

What is happening? State by state, the social compact that supported higher education is being dismantled. A Brookings Institution report revealed in 2003 that state appropriations for higher education have declined sharply, from an average of roughly $8.50 per $1,000 in personal income in 1977 to about $7 per $1,000 by 2002. It is unrealistic to think that state funding will ever return to robust levels, with state budgets being squeezed by the growth of Medicaid caseloads, roads and bridges crumbling under record numbers of drivers, homeland security demanding urgent attention, and the politics of tax-cutting continuing apace. In 2008 the financial pressure on public colleges and universities will only grow with the graduation of the largest high school class in U.S. history. Some look hopefully to Congress as it prepares a new higher education bill. As a former U.S. senator, I can assure you that a federal government facing monumental deficits is unlikely to take up the slack for the states.

If public colleges and universities are to survive, they must be willing to rethink everything they do. A decade ago, Gerhard Casper, then president of Stanford University, ignited an academic firestorm by suggesting that the four-year baccalaureate might not be such a sacred standard. Could a respectable BA be earned in three years? A prominent Virginia attorney recently proposed that state education dollars be diverted from institutions of higher learning to the students themselves. Many educators are willing to enter into explicit corporate alliances and co-branding of schools with sponsors. These may or may not be good ideas, but they represent the kind of iconoclastic thinking the funding crisis requires.

Foremost among any answers must be a drive to recast the relationship of public colleges and universities with the states. Public institutions of higher learning are often classified as state agencies. This identity forces schools to appeal to state bureaucracies to make modest changes in personnel policies or to construct new facilities, adding unnecessary delay in decision making and millions of dollars in unnecessary costs.

A proposal that was recently approved by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and the General Assembly suggests one national direction. Presidents of Virginia's two- and four-year institutions have secured a new compact that will provide greater freedoms for public schools. It will eliminate the bureaucratic burdens, political pressures and other factors that frustrate success, while enabling universities to be more entrepreneurial. This new paradigm will include predictable levels of funding, allowing administrators to make realistic long-term plans. In exchange, every institution will pledge to meet measurable and ambitious goals, including improving graduation rates, nurturing relationships with K-12 schools and opening doors to underserved populations.

In short, if states grant public colleges and universities greater authority to make their own decisions, they can expect them to be accountable for greater financial efficiency and academic performance.

Rethinking the definition of a public university may be a state issue, but it is one of national importance. In the 21st century, the rankings of these incubators of ideas will determine America's technological, economic and military place in the world.

In a brutally competitive global economy, leaders can quickly fall to the rear. The Times of London's rankings of the top 50 schools included six Australian universities and eight Asian universities, while only two from France and one from Germany made the cut. In an age of academic globalization, in which leadership can slip from the heart of Europe to Australia, we cannot afford to allow neglect and inattention to threaten the future of U.S. public colleges and universities.

We need to think hard -- and act soon -- if we want to continue to make the global grade.

The writer, a former Republican U.S. senator from Virginia, is president of Christopher Newport University in Newport News.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Amazing We Can Dress Ourselves

by Liz Ryan (

I feel okay today, inexplicably. I got up, got dressed, charged my cell phone, made it to my morning event and spoke reasonably coherently there. I guess I'm functional - right? But then I stopped at the bookstore and had to think again.

There on the shelf is a lineup of books devoted to helping women fix what's wrong with them. We can succeed in business, if only we perform radical plastic surgery on our personalities. Look at these titles - clearly we need help! We don't know how to negotiate. We don't speak up. We act like girls. We don't know how to play the game. We're flawed, we're bad, we need intervention! We need to buy a lot of books and fix ourselves up so we can succeed in business, and fast!

Boy, isn't it weird that men are so naturally equipped to be businesspeople? I don't think I've heard of one book that seeks to help men correct their natural deficiencies when it comes to the professional world. Men are so lucky. They're in power; privileged with a history of business leadership; and naturally endowed with just the characteristics the workplace demands, to boot.

Women need to shape up! Otherwise, we won't make it in the business world. If we're not thriving professionally, it's our own fault - we're not built right! Much of what we do, think, and feel is unsuitable and must be repressed, corrected or hidden. Is this song starting to sound familiar?

Wait a second here. Could it be that because it's a man-built business world, it happens to work best for men? Is that possible? Could it be that the logical/analytical/forceful/direct tendencies most often associated with business have that association because men built the business world in their image? Must the business environment be static? A fixed system, put in place before women ever arrived, and destined to stand unchanged forever? Is business culture perfect, so that women must shoehorn themselves into it without changing an atom?

I don't think so.

Look - women are amazing. They are strong and resilient. They communicate, collaborate, and persevere. They've done what they needed to do to survive and raise generations for, well, generations. Can it be that in the business arena they are suddenly completely unequipped, deficient, flawed?

What women bring to the table is what the business world desperately needs: passion, intuition, non-linear logic, insight, pluck.

Today a man wrote to me (in response to my snarky article about women in leadership posted at saying that women are risk averse. Risk averse? Dude, we go on dates. Risk averse? Women for millennia have been pioneers - we are still pioneers. We are not risk averse. We have a different way of viewing the world and some different ways of dealing with it. Labeling those different skills as negative is a lie that women can see right through - that they can feel in their bones.
I don't buy into the fiction that women need to change everything about themselves to succeed in the male-architected business world. In fact, the business world and the world in general will be healthier when women as they already operate are respected and valued at work. It's not enough that we do the work on our desks - we also have to have another task ladled on top, called Changing Our Natures? That's absurd.

Scanning the shelf of what's-wrong-with-women book titles, you'd be amazed that we can dress ourselves. Talk to a real woman, and you'll hear about multi-tasking on an amazing scale, about determination, creativity, humor, patience and fortitude. Given what women see and experience every day, why would we support an industry of books that seek to teach us how to not be ourselves?

"In order to succeed here at XYZ Company, Ladies, you need to stifle your instincts and behave according to the following standards, many of which will feel unnatural to you because, as a woman, you are sorely lacking in several or many of these fundamental business skills."

Fundamental to whom? Give me a break.

If, in the nineteen-forties or fifties, there had been a book (or a whole shelf of them) advising African American people how to act and speak in order to get along in a society designed by and for white people, would that have been the right answer for them, or for the world? Do you find the idea offensive? Good. Isn't the idea that women should change their communication styles and personalities to make it in a man's business world equally offensive?

Amy Herzberg, a professor and theatrical director/coach at the University of Arkansas, gave a wonderful workshop at the recent ArkWIT/U of A Women in Technology conference. Amy spoke about making presentations, and her talk was unusual in that she never mentioned creating a Powerpoint deck or the usual how-to-present advice. Rather, she talked about being in yourself. Presenting from yourself, connecting with the audience. She said, Don't lead off with a joke if it will take you out of yourself. Don't get outside of yourself, observing and judging.

But look! This slew of "fix yourself" books seeks to do just that - to take you out of yourself in order to judge and correct your workplace behavior. Screw that, ladies - and forgive the indelicate expression. Be in yourself, and speak from your gut. Do what feels right to do, say what feels right to say, at work. There is nothing wrong with the person you already are. Setting out to be more forceful, more logical, more like a guy, is exactly the wrong answer. Wrong for you. Wrong for your company. Wrong for society.

Women already rock. It's the business world that needs to change, and it's actually changing as we have influence on it, thank goodness. Changing our natures and overlaying a fake 'business-y' persona on our powerful instincts will only slow down the amazing positive power that women bring to business. So put down the book. Listen to your gut. Get centered - you're fine right now, sister - and go knock 'em dead.

Liz has over 20 years experience in managing high-growth organizations, she lectures nationally and writes about working and managing in the digital economy. If you're looking for advice or have questions related to your job, just ask Liz! You can email Liz at